Haumea, one of the hundreds if not thousands of dwarf planets orbiting beyond Neptune is seemingly not the average, run-of-the-mill space body. According to a recent study, this distant dwarf world seems to be surrounded by a vast ring. It is the first time researchers spotted such a feature around a space body that is not a planet, not even a small one.
The Distant Dwarf Planet with a Lot of Secrets
Scientists are still unsure how many dwarf planets might be orbiting in our Solar Systems, some speculating that the number might be in the thousands mark. Such space bodies orbiting beyond Neptune are also hard to spot, so scientists make the most of any glimpse.
Scientists had the chance to take a look at Haumea, one of the distant dwarfs of our system. Earlier this year, this passed in front of URAT1 533–182543, a star, an event which is called occultation.
Researchers led by Jose Luis Ortiz, an astronomers part of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Andalucia, Spain were prepared, as ten different labs had their telescopes trained their telescopes on Haumea.
Having 12 “eyes” tracking its every move helped scientists analyze the distant dwarf from various angles and as never before. Thanks to this, they were also able to spot and determine that this has a vast ring around it.
It is the first time astronomers detected a ring system surrounding a planet in this category. Haumea’s ring was estimated to be 43.5 miles in width and a 1,421 miles radius.
The distant dwarf planet itself was also described as being “very exotic”. According to the team, Haumea has an odd shape as it appears to be an unusually elongated ellipsoid.
Its axes were also approximated to be 1,442 miles by 1,059 miles by 707 miles. Also, Haumea doesn’t seem to have an atmosphere.
“The discovery of a ring around Haumea – a much more distant body, in a completely different dynamical class, much larger than Chariklo and Chiron, with satellites and with a very elongated triaxial shape – has numerous implications,” says the research team in its paper.
The scientists point out to the previous discovery of rings around two small minor planets, Chiron and Chariklo.
Details on the discovery are available in the journal Nature.
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